Forest Hiking in Madeira
– The wonderful things in life are the things you do, not the things you have. – Reinhold Messner
They say wood-sprites often lurk in a mountain –
we leave behind the saying and track pitched trails
while the sulky sky’s gone. Though no wind, inching
sound there. Around us, only shadow play
of green sways in acres of leaves and twigs.
With slats of light filtering through foliage,
our traffic is legs; our gait is first steady
and fluid, never teetering on the way.
Large ferns are inlaid with hydrangeas
whose pallid calyces reflect with shades
a countenance of light, rain, and air;
magenta to fuchsia, thistle to violet
on a land palette of the undulant field.
As altitude is higher, our footfalls
are stiff and we plod along a path thickset
with dewy weed. To hear quicksilver calls
from afar of a sort of pigeon, finch,
or oriole is peace for us whose heartbeats
are quickened with swollen legs. A short rest
and water near a knotty tree, thinking
of thousands of footprints born, lost, repressed
in a perpetual cycle like tides, like time.
You tat me, then we climb up to the top.
Although sometimes fearful of an ambush
of unseen creatures that are just a riddle
in nature, we shake off a ghostly vision
and do our way through advance between tufts.
First step, second, and the moment comes:
our reach to the summit. Hold the Atlantic,
bougainvillea, bird of paradise, and cumulus
in the firmament. Everything is for us.
Walk through Blue Dawn
No people, no sound. Time stops
in the dim. Overhead, the brindled
sea spreads out without pinpoint glints
and moonlight is faint in the downtown
where over-madeup pavilions and
high-rise constructions with no shadows
lie with a mass of cotton flowing willy-nilly.
The long dismal time turns me
into an early bird to break out
like a prisoner does,
for a moment’s relief
from my own closed island.
Passing over the thin alley,
the dark park appears, waits for me
there, murky firs shake leaves, branches
in cool wind, bear blobby ghosts with shades
before and behind, I walk through them
while the pond reflects the mixture
of aquatic creatures on the water with pale light.
Out of the park, a kettle murmurs
somewhere, streaks of lighting arise,
towards them, a flock of birds flies.
Today no bug-hunting-net and tool was only my right hand
in insects’ summer choir and
through a shady road along flowering dogwoods
my heart got excited step by step
as more closer to the woodland of sawtooth oaks
and farther from town’s noise.
At one moment, the muteness of trees spread. Thirst for hunting.
I looked around, heard long shrilling
echoes of a cicada, maybe, you might sit on the low
branch, I crept up on you.
The aventurine was shaking. What did diamond eyes see?
With bated breath, the first and second
fingers bridged your body. Snap, full stop. I pinched nothingness.
Nothing, poor me. A crow saw me.
I failed and failed, there was a thread of lingering sighs
as if a calico cat targeted
koi in the pond, jab a paw, only splash and wild waves.
A crow laughed on a treetop
calmly moving to trunk to trunk, I followed cries of cicadas,
for them, sweet sap and fine mating
were ecstasies. For me, winning against one ecstasy
in pursuit of a bright wow voice.
It’s loud overhead. I walked under soft sonorants
that whirred or whined or honked or squawked.
A shot at you – my two fingers shaped from V to I.
Halcyon moment, triumphant.
Your chanting was broken, madness beamed between fingers.
I released you, oh, a crow traced you.
Hideko Sueoka is a poet and translator living in Tokyo. Her winning poem of Troubadour International Poetry Prize 2013 was highly commended in the Forward Prize 2014. Her debut poetry chapbook was published from Clare Songbirds Publishing House (US) in 2018.